It could be mold.
That’s the risk you run into when you use the bark of a tree to stop up bottles!
A little cork history…
The stopper, commonly called a cork, is made from the bark of a Cork Oak. What’s amazing is that the cork bark is harvested from the tree without causing permanent damage, which means a single tree is capable of producing a lot of cork in its lifetime.
One of the main benefits of cork is that compresses easily, which makes it ideal for stopping bottles. It’s been used as a stopper of wine and other beverages for centuries.
As you can imagine from any wood product, it’s also subject to moisture. More moisture means it’ll expand, less moisture means it’ll shrink. This is one of the reasons why they recommend storing wine bottles on their side, so the wine keeps the cork from drying out.
But isn’t alcohol a mold-killer?
Alcohol is a mold killer but cork is porous, so mold can get inside where the alcohol can’t get to it.
What can you do about it?
Don’t drink it. Mold is serious stuff.
While this has never happened to me with scotch but it has happened with other corked bottles and I never knew you could contact the manufacturer to get it replaced.
Here’s what reader Wayne had to say in our Facebook group:
It’s no biggie – taste the scotch for “cork taint”. If it has a mildew kind of odor, the cork was moldy & you should return it or write to the company. That happened to me with a bottle of Balvenie once (yes, Balvenie) and after writing to them, they sent me a new bottle @ no charge!
In a case like this, it’s all about being unlucky. It’s not Balvenie’s fault, they likely sanitized the corks as they would any other in the manufacturing process and just missed something.
Or a spore landed on it after the fact… who knows. Either way, you can get the bottle replaced, which is nice!